Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Walking Dead on AMC

Greetings Fright Fans!
I've not done a movie or television review as yet.  This is not for any other reason than I haven't really had anything to say in those areas.  I do have something to say now.  I have been watching "The Walking Dead" since it premiered on Halloween night this year.  I've seen 5 episodes and I believe next week's episode is to be the season finale.
So having watched 5/6 of the series, let me now say this:

AMC, fuck you.

There, I've said it.

This is it.  This is the whole bloody show.  Just whinging on and on and on and crying about 'that's not how we do things".  Please, zombies, just eat these people to spare me their bullshit.

This show is boring.  BORING.
It's just boring.  The characters are boring and they whine.  They whine a lot.  Every episode features some misplaced sentiment about 'not becoming' like the zombies by making stupid, emotionally tortured decisions.  Episode two featured our hero, Rick the cop, and a survivor covering themselves in corpse viscera so they would 'smell' like the dead and be able to walk freely among them.  That's a good idea.  Well, it is an interesting idea if not good.
I would have been fine with that bit of vomit-inducing ingenuity, as that is what a zombie flick is all about.
What was pointless and annoying was having Rick take the corpse's wallet and find out who the poor sucker was, then tell the rest of the survivors how he was going to 'tell people' about him.
That right?  Gonna turn water into wine too later?
What a prick.  At least that shit made sense in Fight Club.  Here it was just pretentious bullshit.

I wish that was the only example of such syrupy sentimentality and misplaced humanism.  I wish it was the most egregious example.  It was neither of those things.

If you've watched the series "V" (the new one, not the original) then you might know the character of Kyle Hobbes.  Kyle is this ultra-pretty boy Aussie who is ex SAS, super mercenary badass.  The so-called resistance roped him into their cause to assist them and, you know, train the army.  Yet every time Kyle gives a direction, provides training or is used as an SME, super-FBI agent Blondie tells him that "that's not how we do things" and they all do the opposite of what Kyle says and shit goes wrong.
So just so we understand: expert says go left, resistance doesn't want to become morally bankrupt so they go right, hits wall, bloodies noses, loses member, lather, rinse, repeat.
That's Walking Dead all over.
Each episode is a training manual for how NOT to survive a zombie apocalypse.  That is, when you are not being forced to watch painful interpersonal relationship bullshit that would not even be allowed on a soap opera.
It's just so boring.  Every episode features maybe, grand total, including credits and scenes from last week, 36 seconds of zombies.  If you are very lucky you get to see 2 in 1 episode.
The characters are uninteresting.  I can't care about them at all.  The only one with a functioning brain cell is the brother of the MIA racist neo-Nazi asshat from episode 2 and although he is supposed to be the heartless foil to all the touchy-feely characters, dammit all he's the only one to like.  He's the only one that makes sense ever.

The Walking Dead has the pace of the walking dead and all the brains and verve as well.

It's no "Deadworld", I'll tell ya that.

Oh, "Deadworld"?  It was a comic from the 80's that was revived in the 2000's by Image.  It tells the classic story of a schoolbus full of survivor kids in a world that is in the grips of a zombie apocalypse.  Yeah.  That old story.
Look at that shit.  Gore on the cover, mature label, title is clear and succinct. Just so we are clear, this is not a teaser cover.  This happens in every single issue of this comic.
Only thing is, it was REALLY GOOD.  It used a mixture of humor and horror to tell the story.  It had interesting characters you came to care about and some of them were eaten or otherwise disposed of.  It was in black and white so the gore was aplenty.  Unlike Walking Dead, which fails to have either humor or horror (I'd settle for dramatic tension, but it seems to have forgotten that as well), Deadworld was gritty and tense.
Plus it had King Zombie:
Again, THIS REALLY HAPPENS IN THE BOOK.  No fake out covers or false adverts with a Deadworld product.
There he is.  Killer.  A Harley riding, Marlboro smoking, intelligent zombie agent for the evil forces that were making the world a land of the undead.  King Zombie was the badass villain that drew the readers in.  And he answered the letters page as well.
This guy is so punk it hurts
If Walking Dead were like Deadworld, I'd love it.  Hell, if it were like Romero's work, I'd love it.  As it stands I just don't like it.  It wastes my time.  It is not scary, it is not gory, it is not heroic, tense, dramatic, sexy or escapist fantasy.  It is like real life.  It is like work.  I watch the show and I feel like I've been to work.  I have to work to get anything out of it and I end up thinking about the 500 ways I'd write it better, but it's so banal that I don't even bother.
This is all you are going to get from me.
I thought it might just be slow to start, sort of a slow burning match that leads to a powder keg, but really it is an unimpressive Roman candle that fizzles a bit and occasionally spits out a glowing ball.  Shit, I'll take the sparklers at that rate.

Here's Deadworld one more time, just to cleanse the palette.

Until next time, keep your guns loaded.

Jul Pumpkin in 3, 2, 1...

You might have noticed a change in the background.  I hope you have because this is the new, Winter Holidays 2010 edition of the Jul Pumpkin (formerly known as Celtic Pumpkin, don't worry, it will be again).
Well, it's still Celtic Pumpkin, but let's call it Jul Pumpkin, as a favor to me.

In the pages in the upcoming days I will be looking at Yule, Jul, Christmas, what have you.  The winter holidays!

Look forward to much in depth discussion of things I like including:

A Christmas Carol



Media Reviews

And the usual forays into toys and nonsense.

Until next time, Keep your Tree Lit.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

See-Through Heroes: Bedlam

Continuing from a previous posting about heroes/villains/characters that are, essentially, see-through, I present Bedlam, one-time Chaos Comics character.

Bedlam was a Hopi who committed a little industrial sabotage to aid the tribe, only to accidentally uncover the symbol of Chaos, get it branded on his hand and get his face burned off in the process.  He was charged with a duty to travel throughout time and space battling evil.
You know, that old story.
PC bitches note: When you have a skull for a face you  have little to fear from smoking
Essentially Bedlam is a badarse skull-faced cowboy that battles evil with guns and magic powers.  He was never a major character at Chaos, what with not having his own book, but was very important to the overall storyline of the Chaos Universe itself.  He was also possibly the only character to survive the Chaos world-changing Armageddon event (Chaos's own Crisis On Infinite Earths, if you will) intact.  His ability to move through time, space and realities being the cause of that survival.

I believe a great deal of his charm comes from the fact that he did get so little use.  His only starring appearances being his origin story in Chaos Quarterly #1 and his own one-shot (pictured above).  While the character could be seen playing a variety of support roles throughout the Chaos books, he never warranted his own regular series.  Contrast that to, oh, Wolverine, who is in EVERYTHING EVERY MONTH and still had his own series for YEARS.

For its U.S. release, Deathly Hallows was updated with 150% more Wolverine, guaranteeing an extra 1 MIL sales!

In this picture you can see the Chaos brand in his palm, also it would seem that having one's face burned off permanently paints the nails.  That's handy.
When dealing with see-through characters, or fleshless characters like Bedlam, Skeletor, or Skullfire, we may ask ourselves many logical questions.  Among these questions one might ask, "How does this character see?"
That's a good question.
Bedlam's "eyes" appear to be points of light inside his skull.  If we accept that a person can live with his flesh burned from his skull, empowered by mystic forces of course, then we can bend the rules of physics regarding the nature of vision as reflected light.
This applies to Skeletor as well.
I have no idea what is going on here, but Day-um.  Bedlam as a pirate, Evil Ernie, and, yes, we have a SHARK! in the background.
In most cases the comics just say, "It is not known how (insert character name here) is able to see, but (s)he seems to suffer no debilitating effects as a result of (origin accident)."

Maybe I'm nuking it, but in the Golden Age of comics hero and villain origins were as simple as, "District Attorney Rick Raliegh could no longer stand idly by while criminals went unpunished.  Employing his trained bees and natural flair for wearing tights, he took to the streets to earn a buck as The Red Bee!" (Look him up, I could not make crazy shite like that up)

But then we had the Silver Age and things needed a better explanation than, "Came to Earth in a rocketship, yellow sun, got cool powers."  We needed things to make "Science-Fiction Sense!"  Which means that if you spill a bunch of chemicals on a police scientist and then hit him with a lightning bolt that magical combination of things can make him the fastest man alive.  Otherwise it's just silly, right?
The easy out is, of course, magic.  Or Magic! if you like.
In the modern age, unless you are trying to evoke the glorious Golden Age in spirit or with tongue firmly planted in cheek, you really have to explain things.  You have to know that being a Kryptonian means that your cells are solar batteries and that Rao, the red sun of Krypton, produces wavelengths that do nothing for those batteries but that the wavelengths from a yellow sun, like Sol, overclock those cells and provide abilities, such as heat vision, which is really just a controlled release of solar energy.  Yep.
Fist Fulla Magic (wah wah waaahhh)
So sometimes I like to not have to answer those questions.  The out door?  Yep, Magic!  If I am going to accept that a Hopi can dig open a Chaos! mark in the ground, have his face burned off, get the Chaos! brand, travel through time and space and dimensions battling evil I am not going to quibble about his being able to see or his smoking habits.  At least not this time.
'Scool, Bedlam
Next time we do a See-Through Heroes article, I cannot promise I will be so understanding.
Bedlam: 10 points out of 10 for being cool, creepy and badass all in one.

Until next time, keep your atomic skeletons lit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

InAction Figures In Action: The coolest thing I have ever seen

Ahoy, shipmates!

Annoying pirate talking notwithstanding, today's InAction Figures post concerns figurines.
Figurines are essentially tiny statues.  Are you holding an action figure, a doll, a miniature or a figurine?
If the item is not articulated it is not an action figure and probably not a doll.
Miniatures include things other than animal and human, such as furniture and automobiles.
Figurines are often larger than "miniatures" (cut the chortling in the back, it is NOT self-evident) as well.

There are a number of companies that produce figurines of all types, some of which are produced for children as playthings, making them toys, but not dolls.

One such company I have mentioned before is Schleich from Germany.  Today I want to feature a few from a French company called Papo (  Papo produces hard vinyl toy figurines of a size suitable for small hands.  These figures fall into many categories, such as 'farm animals' and 'knights'.  Papo has a 'pirate' line of figures including classic pirates such as Captain Hook and Blackbeard.  There are also a number of Fantasy Pirates.  Let us look at a few of them:
Death's Head Pirate

A fine looking figure that seems a combination of Ring Wraith and Pirate.  I appreciate the buckle shoes instead of boots (boots are just too overdone in pirate imagery) and the pepperbox pistol is a nice touch.  The rope belt is a bit Jethro-eque however.

Zombie Pirate
Eye patch is a good call, as are the buckle shoes and the sash.  I take points off for wearing a skull and crossbones hat, but add points for the lace cravat.  Dead, but stylish.

Mutant Pirates-These seem somewhat inspired by the general idea of Davy Jones's crew from POTC:DMC, and include THE COOLEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN.

Well, he's a fish, right.  Carrying a trident is a little S&M for a fish, but the one good shoe-one damaged shoe is cool and the small octopus on the shoulder in place of a parrot is just too good not to mention.

The walrus is nice, but I feel for him with a hook hand and a peg leg.  Nice coat, nice pants, great sword.  Looks like he means business, mate.

And now, the moment you have all been waiting for...THE COOLEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN:

Mutant Shark Pirate!
Holy.  Shit.
Let's review this thing of beauty.  First it combines two of my favorite things (I know, I have many 'favorite' things, including skeletons, flaming skeletons, werewolves, hot rods, but my friends know, KNOW, my thing for pirates and sharks, so this is AWESOME).  It is just AWESOME.  Yet I must, despite this, attempt to overcome my awe and find the this...SHARK PIRATE!!!
Okay, the boots (despite my previous comments about boots being passe, these work for the figure) are great with the thigh high fold down Francis Drake look.  The waistcoat and blood red cravat are perfectly suited to a shark-man.  The great coat is a nice creamy white, which lends the 'savage killer' of the seas a touch of class (which I believe Old Mr. Whitey truly possesses).  Tooth dagger in one hand and 'fish sword' in the other, makes for a cheeky fantasy touch.  It is clear that the sculptor loved his subject.  This is not some dirty bilge rat, but a gentleman pirate.  Note the 'earring' piercing the dorsal fin (perfect given the lack of external ears on the animal), again lending a touch of class to this Mutant Pirate.  All in all, for coolness,sculpt and execution of design, I give this figure 12 out of 10.  But I might be a bit biased.

Papo's figurines are hand painted, solid and durable.  They are suitable for children but have an appeal to a collector as well.
Oh, and SHARK MAN!

Until next time, dig that shark pirate one more time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

InAction Figures in Action: 2 Foots Firmly In Place...

1 for the balls, 1 up the arse!

Today I want to talk about an InAction Figure I quite admire made by Reaper Miniatures (great website, go check 'em out): Jonas Kane
I purchased the first and second iterations of Jonas Kane a few years back, and managed to paint them both (I have since lost them, long story that I am not likely to tell), but I never managed to acquire the third version.
The first was called Jonas Kane, Vampire Hunter.  This was a very nice miniature:
Righteous fury personified
Here we see what appears to be a holy warrior, given that he wears a breastplate.  The unadorned cross upheld and the open book, coupled with the facial features (open mouth, intense eyes) suggests that Jonas in in the midst of casting out demons or rebuking the undead.  On his right hip you see a mallet and beneath it, not visible in the picture are stakes.  All in all, this was a good miniature that was easy to paint, as I recall, and full of excitement.

A few years later Reaper produced an updated Jonas Kane:
If the first meant business, then this one is working overtime
Now we see a Jonas Kane that is more warrior and less holy man, but still committed to his iconography.  The holy cross has been traded in for a pike that is clearly a cross plus, that is a cross cum halberd.  We can just imagine Jonas transfixing some poor bloodsucker on the end of his pike while spouting a prayer then beheading the fiend with his trusty sword.  Jonas has added greaves (adorned with crosses, as you can see) and a codpiece (just smart in any event) and still carries the mallet and stakes.  Jonas has not stopped in his righteous fury, as we can see the mouth is still open in a cry of fury and the eyes show determination.

The most recent Jonas Kane, called Jonas Kane, Undead Hunter (note the scope expansion to cover ALL UNDEAD) can be seen below: (Image from Reaper Website, painting NOT done be me)
"Taste my armored boot, in your rotted arse, unclean fiend!"
Now that's InAction IN ACTION!  Marvel at the static kineticism of the sculpt.  Jonas still wears the hooded cloak he has sported since his first appearance, but now he is clad in plate armor from boot to neck, gauntlets and all.  The sword is aflame, no doubt in holy fire and in his left hand he swings a censer, perhaps full of sacred, blessed incense...or patchoulie or something foul like that.  Particularly well done, I believe, are the details.  Our hero stands atop this pile of stones, looking out over a sea of undead (I imagine), or has he retreated here after hours of battle to catch his breath?  The undead crawl relentlessly up to their dooms, but our hero has taken a breath, lit his sacred censer and is about to commence with a high holy arse-stomping the likes of witch no one has seen in this world or the next.  With one foot firmly in the balls of the undead and one firmly up the arse of some vampire groupie, Jonas Kane is one of the greatest InAction Figures I have ever had the pleasure to paint or see.  You just can't get this type of detail and pose combined in a regular, articulated action figure.

Until next time, keep your holy sword lit.

Nothing Says Equality Like See-Through Heroes!

Take a look at the following two comics characters:
Now you might not know it, but one is a brother man and one is the other man, but you can't tell which.  That's the joyous equality of being a skeleton!

I am very interested in characters in comics that are skeletons, or see-through, or some similar idea.  On the left is Ghost Rider, as portrayed by Nick Cage in the film of the same name.  On the right is Mr. Bones, formerly of Helix and Infinity Inc.
Growing up as a young boy, for I was once a young boy, I was easily drawn in when presented with something "cool", such as skulls, or fire, or hot rods.  Perhaps this explains my immediate interest in Ghost Rider when first I saw him.
The first issue of GR I ever got my greedy little hands on, indeed the first I recall seeing was the one seen below:
Flaming bike, flaming skull, sideshow freaks...what more could a young boy want in a comic?
I freely confess, I have not outgrown my interest in skulls, skeletons and the like.  I've toyed, off and on, with the notion of collecting a database of heroes and villains, characters essentially, that fit within the categories of skeleton, see-through or skull for a face (I'm looking at you Skeletor).
So far I've found:
Ghost Rider
Mr. Bones
Atomic Skull (1 and 2)
Doctor Phosphorus
Blazing Skull
Blazing Skull (Skull the Slayer)

So any help in this area would be greatly appreciated.

Until next time, keep your head lit.

Friday, November 5, 2010

InAction Figures in Action: Requiem for a Villain

THE greatest new toy of 1982!
Great heroes need great villains.  A hero is measured by his deeds and in order to do great deeds that hero needs a villain who is every bit as vile as the hero is heroic.  The clash of these two diametrically opposed titans is what draws us into the action and makes us tune in, week after week, month after month, book after book.  Superman has Luthor.  Batman has the Joker.  A hero with lame, second rate villains is often mocked.  By all rights Skeletor, from the Masters of the Universe, should have been one of the greatest villains of all time, and yet he was played false and sold short by Mattel.  Today I examine this ‘could have been’ great in all his plastic glory.

Set the WABAC Machine for 1982…

A young boy shuffles through a local retail store with his mother and grandmother.  Like most young boys he’d rather be elsewhere or at least in the toy section.  Eventually the party makes its way to the toy section and there on an end cap is the first wave of a new toy line from Mattel: Masters of the Universe.  Immediately the boy is drawn to the colorful plastic figures and rushes forward to investigate.  Almost immediately after that he begins the begging/barter process whereby the boy promises all sorts of things that are simply not true in order to obtain a toy.  The mother and grandmother relent and he chooses the single coolest figure on the rack, a blue-bodied, claw-footed, skeleton faced Skeletor…
But he does not go home with this gem, oh no.  Young boys and mothers/grandmothers rarely share the same sense of aesthetics it would seem.  A red-blooded young man is immediately drawn to skulls, monsters, and scenes of rock and roll carnage.  Mothers may be drawn to these things, but not this mother.  The ladies ‘convinced’ the young boy that he would prefer the blonde-haired, nearly naked, Aryan wet-dream “hero” called He-Man.  He-Man?  HE-MAN?!?
Unfortunately this had the effect of distracting the young boy and after reading the accompanying comic book that came with the figure he was happy with the purchase.  It took a few years to get Skeletor and by that time Filmation has produced a cartoon (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe) that made Skeletor seem a simpleton, fool, and worst manager in history.

Here is an example of Skeletor’s management style:
In the desert of Eternia there lies a gem that will allow the possessor to control the entire world.  This item is in the deepest, hottest, most inhospitable part of the desert.  Who, from his vast selection of loyal minions will Skeletor send?
The monkey and the fish-man, that’s who.
Team A, you will be Desert Strike Force Code Name "Poor Choice"
I need to re-iterate here, there will be no water and no trees.  Skeletor will send the monkey and the fish-man every time.  Despite having minions better suited for the task.  Why not send the spitting cobra and the lizard?
Team B, you will be my Snow Serpents!  Now get out there and find my weapons!
Why not send the cyborg and the robot?
Ah, Team C, to the Sea!  Get it?  It's a pun, an Evil Pun!
It’s because at the same time that he needs the desert gem he needs someone to collect a rare clam from the oceans of Eternia and he sent the cyborg and the robot to the bottom of the sea an hour ago for it.  And the reptile people?  They are at the Northern Pole of Eternia, hip deep in snow and ice with the naked yellow chick looking for the lost technology of the ancients. 
All jokes about this woman being 'frigid' are officially in poor taste
He’s just a bad leader is what I’m saying.
And he blames others for his failings.  Honestly, even with the Orko factor handicapping He-Man’s team, Skeletor is consistently calling the wrong plays for the bad guys.
Is that the sort of villain a hero should be facing, the sort of villain that beats himself?
The original packaging gave the characters, the “masters” of the universe titles, such as Savage Henchman for Beast Man or Master of Weapons for Man-At-Arms.  Skeletor’s title was Lord of Destruction!  So again, looking at the toy-based evidence alone we have 1) skull for a face; 2) buff physique; 3) evil clawed bird feet; 4) satanic ram skull staff; 5) pseudo-Roman bone armor; 6) Lord of Destruction!
You really have to expand this to appreciate the effort
How is this guy not the most badass villain ever?
He is the barbarian fantasy equivalent of Doctor Doom, Thanos and Darkseid all rolled into one.  It simply was not the case, however, due to the Filmation cartoons.  In the minicomics that came with the figures Skeletor started out as a competent and interesting villain, but once the cartoon debuted and proved popular the character suffered. 
Anyone familiar with toys will not be surprised to learn that Mattel made multiple variants of Skeletor and He-Man over the years (although thankfully these did not appear in the cartoons) including Battle Armor Skeletor (pretty cool really) with a neat ‘battle damage’ effect and the extremely lame Laser Light Skeletor who is just crap.
This might be the worst toy ever made.  It looks like it was shat into existence.
In 2002 Mattel released a new, updated line of MotU toys (there was a cartoon again) with new sculpts by the Four Horsemen (  The Skeletor from that line was nothing short of righteous.  Here was the character that we had all dreamed of in the 80’s.  Since any RPG gamer realizes that Skeletor is essentially a lich and that liches are the number one, A, top-level, all time most badass of the undead, this is the Skeletor we deserved.
Have a look at him: leering skull for a face, muscled physique, ram-skull staff, strange boney armor; this guy looks like he means business.
This is a thing of beauty, it is.  So many colors, so much detail, 5 toes per foot...
The updated Skeletor was less the simpering, whiney fool of his previous cartoon incarnations and seemed more comfortable using powerful magic.

Skeletor needed to be a great evil in order that He-Man could be a great good.  Again we draw the comparison to the lich, a spellcaster that works great and dark magics to transcend death itself and continue in its quest for power.  Skeletor just looks badass and his character should have matched it.  In practice he ends up being like Cobra Commander, a poor leader, a poor planner and a whinging twat.  Even Cy-Kill of the Gobots is a more interesting and effective villain.

Mattel released new collector’s editions of figures starting in 2008.  Included in this run in 2009 was Skeletor.  This edition, seen below, is based on his original incarnation from 1982, but updated to a more articulated form.  It is, quite nice, but doesn’t show the evil joy of the Four Horsemen sculpt.  Despite that, I think its retro appeal with updated quality is nice.  The number of points of articulation has been increased dramatically from the original 6 (hip, hip, shoulder, shoulder, waist, neck) with the inclusion of ball and socket joints as well.  This makes the figure poseable, but it is really the sculpt that concerns me.  It is a nice sculpt with the face harkening back to the expressionless 1982 version.  Is that creepier than the demonic 2002?  You decide.

In keeping with the general theme of InAction Figures, I must feature the Skeletor statue sculpted by the Four Horsemen:
Now THAT'S an InAction Figure.  Look at the detail.  Look how he is frozen in a glorious second of motion and action, threatening great harm to any and all who oppose him.  Can't get that from an articulated dolly
Now that is an InAction Figure!  The pose, the sculpt, the entire feeling is a serious threat to good and justice.  This is the guy that used to menace the heroes at Castle Grayskull when I was playing the game, at least in my head it was. 

For more information on Skeletor, including his character origin, its variations and the Keldor connection, you can check the Internet Repository of  Common Knowledge or

Until next time, keep your figures static.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

InAction Figures!

I am an adult but I still find myself drawn to toys.  I do not play with toys and haven't bought any for collectors' purposes in quite a while, but I do still enjoy perusing the shelves of a toy store.  I cannot quite explain why this should be but it is and that is enough for me.

I have of late begun to appreciate the static beauty of the miniature far more than the articulation of the action figure.  It is these things that I call InAction Figures.  Ironically the static miniature captures the kinetic spirit of action far better than the articulated Action Figure.  Observe Exhibit A, an action figure.  The articulation leaves noticeable screws visible and the entire thing seems feeble and lacking in action.

Exhibit A:
Note the obvious points of articulation on the figure and the general lack of action 

Now observe Exhibit B, a miniature.  Note that although it lacks articulation it appears frozen in a moment of time, full of action and promise.  The miniature does not suffer from the need for poorly engineered joints that wear out over time.

Exhibit B:
This mini from Reaper Miniatures website is a moment of intense action frozen in time.  Note the feeling of kinetics in the static form.  

The term Action Figure was first coined in 1964 by Hasbro when the company introduced GI Joe, 12 inches of Ken Doll-like toy for young boys.  With this invention Hasbro expanded boys play into the world of dolls, but developed the more masculine term Action Figure to avoid negative stereotyping of femininity.  Boys weren't supposed to play with dolls.  To be fair, the toy soldier predates the action figure by hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.  Boys have long enjoyed small, often detailed, military toys with which to become indoctrinated into the manly joys of armed conflict.  Why, even the holiday nutcrackers represent this fine tradition.  The modern mini, or InAction Figure, is the latest in a long standing tradition.

Exhibit C: Toy Soldier
From the German company Schleich, this figurine is too large to be a miniature and is molded from plastic.  Again note the action frozen in time in this InAction Figure.

Some of the most impressively sculpted action figures of the past 20 years have come from Macfarlane, the creator of Spawn.  Many figures from Macfarlane feature dozens of points of articulation and creative sculpting that any artist should envy.  They are crap when it comes to play.  The fine sculpting goes away when any pose save the packaged pose is attempted as this reveals, often garishly so, the lines where the figure is joined.  Such does not happen with a mini or statue.

Exhibit D:  Hatchett from Macfarlane

Possibly one of the goriest and simultaneously one of the most badass action figures of all time.  The pictured pose is about the only way to stand the figure up without showing the articulation points that ruin the image.

I plan to continue my exploration into the wonderful world of Statics or InAction Figures, as I refer to miniatures and figurines, in the pages of this blog.

Until next time, keep your painted pumpkins pretend lit.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And now an abrupt change of direction...

There is a relationship between Halloween and Christmas not unlike the relationship enjoyed by the attractions The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion in the minds of fans of Disney Parks.  While the two are not the same, they share elements and the fans have joined them together, even going so far as to weave the attractions together into a single story in fiction.
So too do some persons, myself included, put Halloween and Christmas together, with a brief stop at Thanksgiving, into a single convivial season.  My former mentor, the late Doctor Stephen Glosecki, once noted in an interview that Halloween marks the beginning of a season of the Earth 'dying' and entering into the dark, cold, winter months that will culminate in Christmas as the main event.  In this manner we can see Halloween and Christmas as constituents of a binary celebration, but one does wish to exclude Thanksgiving from the general festivities.
In America it seems that Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of the Christmas season.  This is not necessarily the appropriate behavior, but it has become the cultural norm and so must be accepted.  The main drawback to such behavior is the potential for Christmas burnout long before the actual event such that we feel glad to be done with it all rather than celebratory.

There are elements in common with the two holidays that I would like to explore as the days go along bringing us through the autumn and into the winter and I will in the pages of this blog.  To begin I will highlight some of the general points I will explore.

Both holidays feature specific traditional foods:
Halloween is tied to harvest imagery with pumpkins, corn, and candy, not to mention bobbing for apples, popcorn balls and soul cakes.  Christmas has loads of traditional foods depending upon the culture in question.  In America turkey and ham are traditional Christmas dinner choices, but many other foods are involved as well.

Both holidays have their sources in pre-Christian holy days that were co-opted by the Church as part of its expansion in days past.

Both holidays features ghosts, of a sort:
Halloween occurs at a period when the worlds of the living and the dead conjoin allowing passage between the two for spirits of all types.  Samhain, also marks the end of Summer and the beginning of the dead time of year.
Christmas features the evergreen, holly and mistletoe, to symbolize eternal life through the dead time.  Dickens gave us a story that was, effectively, a ghost story for Christmas.  Figures like the Krampas, Black Peter, and Father Christmas further add a spooky, sometimes frightening, but always 'spirited' aspect to Christmas.

Both holidays help us to strengthen our spiritual/mental resolve in the often depressing dark times of the wheel of the year:
Revelries of all kinds help humans to survive in a somewhat healthy mental state when faced with the long nights, short days, and cold, dead atmosphere of the winter months.  Halloween gets us out of our homes and into churches, community centers and our neighbor's homes to share in a mutual laugh in the face of fear.  Christmas too brings us out of our homes before the truly cold, dead of winter, when the snows come and we huddle in our homes for warmth.  The jovial nature of Christmas brings us out into the streets to shop, out and into neighborhoods to view the lights decorating businesses and homes, and into the homes of our friends and family members for dinners and parties.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are two holidays when we commonly travel, sometimes great distances, to spend time with our families celebrating with feasting and gift giving.

As the season progresses toward the big day I want to explore various aspects of the Christmas season (or Yule if you prefer) as it is a holiday I enjoy very much for many reasons.  Do stick around, if you will.  And remember, keep your Yule Log lit.